Top 20 Sales Skills: Definitions and Tips for Developing Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sales professionals use a range of skills to identify customers, make pitches and close deals. Salespeople can use skills like negotiation and communication to excel in their jobs. If you want to start a sales career, you can work on developing a set of essential career skills. In this article, we list the top 20 sales skills and tips for developing and listing them on your resume.

What are sales skills?

Sales skills are the abilities that equip sales professionals to communicate with customers and close sales successfully. Salespeople can use a wide range of skills to reach their sales goals and excel in their careers. Some of the core skills for sales professionals include prospecting, pitching and negotiation, but salespeople can also benefit from basic career skills like communication, time management and organisation. They can develop these skills through practice, on-the-job training and other professional development opportunities.

Top 20 skills for sales professionals

The 20 essential skills for sales professionals are:

1. Communication

Effective sales professionals can communicate clearly with other people through multiple communication channels, including in-person, on the phone and through email. They're skilled at choosing the most effective words and phrases for the conversation and can speak or write in a manner that's both informative and easily understood. They also know how to customise their communication style to different individuals.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills (With Definition and Examples)

2. Negotiation

Negotiations often take place just before the salesperson closes a sale. Negotiation skills equip you to offer deals that are beneficial to both parties. Strong negotiators are skilled at evaluating the client's position and determining how to get the most value from the sale.

3. Time management

Time management skills can also help sales professionals excel. Salespeople evaluate their time constraints and strive to close sales as quickly as possible without rushing the customer. Strong time management skills equip sales professionals to make the best use of their available time and schedule their days to fill the hours productively.

4. Objection management

Salespeople also know how to handle objections from a client. The best sales professionals can soften the objection, identifying the core of the issue and discarding surrounding problems that are after the primary problem. They provide clarity and skillfully resolve objections with effective solutions.

5. Organisation

Salespeople can use skills in organisation to manage their different leads. They may use software programs to organise customer and product information. These skills can also help them facilitate meetings with clients and customers.

6. Self-motivation

Salespeople are often responsible for meeting individual sales goals. Successful sales professionals are often self-motivated and diligent. The best salespeople set and achieve their goals, and they continue working hard through each stage of the sales cycle.

7. Product knowledge

Sales professionals are among the most knowledgeable people in the company regarding the products and services that are available. Good salespeople know the pros and cons of each product, service and solution. They can provide details on any item and make informed recommendations based on a shopper's needs.

8. Prospecting

Prospecting skills equip sales professionals to identify opportunities for new leads. Prospecting involves networking with others and successfully evaluating their needs. This can help salespeople determine which individuals and companies can get the greatest benefit from the products or services that the salesperson offers.

9. Research

Salespeople often conduct research to learn about their customers and products. This can help them craft the best possible sales strategies. They also interact with marketing, research and development and customer service professionals to learn more about their company's products and services.

10. Active listening

Active listening is the ability to hear and understand what your client tells you. When you practise active listening skills, you carefully evaluate both what's said and what's implied. You can also use active listening to show the customer that you're interested in what they're saying by showing positive body language, smiling and making eye contact.

11. Goal-setting

Goal-setting is a fundamental part of the sales process. Often, salespeople aim to meet specific sales quotas and targets. To set clear goals, sales professionals often use the SMART goal-setting framework. SMART stands for:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Time-based

Related: How To Give an Elevator Pitch (With Examples)

12. Pitching

Salespeople are typically responsible for designing and delivering sales pitches, which are short presentations that aim to persuade a prospect to make a purchase. Giving sales pitches requires skills in confidence, communication and persuasion. Mastering sales pitching techniques can help salespeople connect with customers and boost their sales numbers.

13. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to relate emotionally to another individual. When you express empathy, you try to imagine what it may feel like to be in the client's situation. Empathic sales professionals can place themselves in the client's position and come up with personalised solutions from that point of reference that can solve the shopper's unique issues.

14. Adaptability

Adaptability can also benefit sales professionals, as they often encounter several situations and customers in a single day at work. Adaptability skills can help you readily adjust your presentation or approach as needed to accommodate new products, services or strategies. For example, you might alter your sales pitch for a specific customer to maximise results.

15. Rapport-building

Salespeople can use rapport-building skills to connect with sales leads and turn them into customers. Rapport-building involves interacting with people to develop relationships with them. They often build rapport by discussing common interests and getting to know their customers.

16. Business acumen

Business acumen encompasses business knowledge and skills. Business acumen can help salespeople understand the sales cycle and customer behaviours. This can help them create effective sales pitches and close deals.

17. Confidence

Confidence is another core skill for sales professionals, as they're responsible for approaching prospective leads and interacting with them. You can develop your confidence by emphasising your strengths as a salesperson. You can also build confidence by emulating other salespeople.

18. Problem-solving

Salespeople also use problem-solving skills to persuade prospective leads to make a purchase. Often, salespeople aim to identify the problems of their clients so they can solve them with a product. This skill can help salespeople craft effective sales pitches, leading to successful deals.

19. Customer service

Sales professionals can use customer service skills to interact with customers and clients effectively. Customer service skills include communication, empathy and patience. Sales professionals know how to use these skills to make their customers feel positive about their products and make a purchase.

Related: Top 20 Customer Service Skills

20. Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness can help salespeople make their customers feel comfortable. When customers feel that they can trust a salesperson, they may be more likely to make a purchase. You can display trustworthiness by being as honest and transparent with your customers as possible.

Tips for developing your sales abilities:

You can use these strategies to optimise your salesperson skills:

Practise

Practising your key skills for sales can help you improve them. You can practise your skills by observing other sales professionals and learning from them. You can also practise applying your skills to real-world situations. In whichever position you're in, you can work on developing transferable skills like communication and confidence.

Related: How To Develop Skill Sets in 9 Steps

Take professional development opportunities

You can also take advantage of your employer's professional development opportunities, such as completing additional on-the-job training. You can create your own development opportunities. You can read books about sales or take online courses to improve your skills.

Set goals for yourself

Another tip for optimising your skills for sales is to set your own career goals. Think about the specific skills that you want to improve and set goals, including deadlines. You can create a plan to achieve these goals and develop these skills.

Related: Career Goals: How To Set, Examples and Tips for Achieving

Tips for showing your sales expertise

Employers look for sales professionals who are skilled in all aspects of making a sale, from prospecting to negotiating and closing. You can demonstrate your proficiency in these areas in your resume, cover letter and interview:

Skills for sales on a resume

Sales professionals can create resumes that highlight their top qualifications. Your resume can include a skills section that lists your top skills related to sales. You can also detail your past sales experience on your resume using facts and figures to support your successes. For example, rather than saying you maintained five sales accounts, specify that you managed 50% of the company's total clients.

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a Resume

Skills for sales in a cover letter

You can use your cover letter to elaborate on your most successful sales efforts. You're confined to a sentence or two as you list your responsibilities on your resume, but you can include an entire paragraph about your skills in a cover letter. For example, if you've led a campaign or used an innovative strategy to close a major sale, you can discuss this in your cover letter.

Skills for sales in a job interview

Demonstrate your skills in your interview by practising your active listening, empathy and communication skills as you speak with your interviewer. Sell yourself as you would a product or service. Show how you can overcome objections, identify the pain points the employer is feeling and position yourself as a solution.

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